Rice University

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Self-Organization of Cellular and Multi-Cellular Matter

The nature of the condensed-matter inside cells and inside tissues is rather different than the thermodynamically-controlled systems we have studied for decades in the physics community. All the constituents are maintained in states very far from equilibrium, via the action of molecular machines that convert chemical energy into mechanical work, often leading to self-organized structures. This picture invariably leads to a large number of fundamental questions including for example how does metabolism and energy-utilization couple to cell behavior, how is the regulatory control of spatially-extended non linear systems such as the cytoskeleton accomplished, and what is the nature of the coupling between individual components (such as cells) which must cooperate to achieve larger-scale functionality.